Vaccine Imperialism


The US’ attitude toward Cuba has always been that of the frustrated empire. Basically, the US is still pissed off that its attempts to buy Cuba were rebuffed by the Spanish.

New imperialism dictates that you don’t need to actually own something, if you control it; you don’t need to claim ownership of a natural resource as long as you control access to it. Cuba is a problem (as are Guatemala and Venezuela) its not under control, but it’s weak enough to be incessantly messed with. It’s colonialism without the colony.

The US imperialists have additional hatred for Cuba because the Cubans managed to accomplish socialized medicine and built a civilization that mostly works in spite of the crushing overhead of US sanctions, which amount to an economic blockade. I find US Cuba policy to be practically medieval: we can claim to be concerned with their “Freedom” while trying to starve them to death. In case nobody has noticed, you can easily expose US foreign policy by inverting its statements: if it claims to be concerned with “freedom” that means it desires to impose authoritarian rule. If it claims to be concerned with “immigration” that means it wants no immigrants. Etc. Puerto Ricans are also familiar with the latter problem: we want you in our territory for, reasons, but keep your brown people out of our vote pool. It’s all weird, to me: why does the US want an empire so badly that it has invented the world’s first stealth empire? What is the point? [Money]

US foreign policy blunders regarding Cuba are a litany of CIA-inspired weirdness and amorality. While we are often treated to a pack of lies about how Kennedy navigated the famous missile crisis we ignore the fact that the US was prepared to treat all of the human lives in Cuba as poker chips for its game of nuclear brinksmanship. which humanity won in spite of the efforts of the US Navy and CIA, to provoke a broad nuclear war. Perhaps the US foreign policy toward Cuba is mired in its fondness for turning the place into a whoring-and-drinking haven during prohibition. Keep the prices down.

I wrote before [stderr] about the danger that the COVID-19 vaccine will be used as a political lever (that is now happening) to “encourage” other countries to behave as we’d like them to, instead of pursuing their own sovereignty. Cuba has a pretty good public health infrastructure, which is well-funded and directed – and they started making their own version of the COVID-19 vaccine. [nature] We’re all in this together, as humans, right? We should stick together and be above politics.

Not so: [counterpunch]

Cuba, the first Latin America country to develop its own COVID-19 vaccines, presently is short of syringes for immunizing its population against the virus. It’s not feasible for Cuba to make its own syringes. The U.S. blockade prevents Cuba from importing them from abroad.

Syringes are lacking all over. The New York Times estimates an overall need of between “eight billion and 10 billion syringes for Covid-19 vaccinations alone.” Manufacturing capabilities are increasing, but that’s of no use to Cuba.

According to Global Health Partners, “Cuba needs roughly 30 million syringes for their mass Covid vaccination campaign and they’re short 20 million.” Solidarity organizations are seeking donated funds to buy syringes and ship them to Cuba.

The US can’t seem to get its imperialism straight. As with Guatemala and Venezuela, Cuba is treated as part of our “sphere of influence” and therefore any actions we take are justified. You know, the same way that Russian actions in Ukraine are justified. The US’ attitude is relentless:

The U.S. blockade causes shortages of basic materials. Buses lack fuel and spare parts; bus routes have been dropped. Food supplies are precarious. Cuban laboratories and production facilities have developed five kinds of COVID-19 vaccines despite short supplies of reagents and laboratory materials.

Cuba can’t buy ventilators needed for critically ill COVID-19 patients. Two Swiss manufacturers stopped selling ventilators to Cuba after a U. S. company purchased them. But Cuban technicians devised their own ventilator model which is in production now.

The impact of the blockade is by no means haphazard. Institutionalized processes aimed at asserting U.S. domination involve laws, administrative decrees, regulations, officials’ interpretations of regulations, and caution on the part of third-country traders and financiers.

Think about this: somewhere in Washington, someone looked at COVID-19 and wrote an opinion paper, “we’ve got them now!” (Which is and will be wrong) What kind of monster looks at a global pandemic and sees only the opportunity to tighten the screws on a neighbor?

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The head of our high school’s Radio Club was a Cuban philosopher, “Doc Faria”, who escaped the island on a home-built flotation system after spending 2 years in a labor camp during which he was repeatedly beaten and starved. He would have been one of those US citizens who is unapologetically in favor of the US taking Cuba over; he was seriously anti-Castro by the time he left there. I remember a few conversations with him, that helped form my early impression that nationalism is bullshit. The Radio Club went to a big ham fair in Trenton, NJ (all packed into Doc’s station wagon) and spent the day wandering the sale/show floor. The Vietnam-era tactical radios fascinated me, and the prices for them were pretty reasonable. I asked Doc and he explained that the surplus radios were capable of receiving and transmitting wherever you set them, and it was a big no-no to take one of them home and resurrect it; besides a lot of the systems were disabled by having critical parts broken. Then Doc said, “you should not want that stuff; it is for those who are to die.”

Some recent news is that the Iranian fleet has taken to sea, with two if its ships outbound toward the Atlantic and maybe  Venezuela. The US Government wants us to know that they know this and are watching closely. Because, in case you didn’t know, the Iranian Navy is our baliwick and what they do is subject to US approval. [The fact that the ships are going to Venezuela was announced by the Iranian government, in a press release.] The US is wagging a stern finger of disapproval, saying in effect, “those ships had better not be carrying weapons.” This, from the world’s weapon-master, who is accustomed to ship weapons wherever and however, at whatever price?

Comments

  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    Cuban laboratories and production facilities have developed five kinds of COVID-19 vaccines …

    I have sort-of expected Cuba to declare a “people’s vaccine” and publish all the technical details for general use, patent-free: a helluva goodwill/propaganda strike, especially in absence of any opportunity to capitalize on their technical prowess (though perhaps risky, if they can’t do serious testing first).

  2. says

    In case nobody has noticed, you can easily expose US foreign policy by inverting its statements: if it claims to be concerned with “freedom” that means it desires to impose authoritarian rule. If it claims to be concerned with “immigration” that means it wants no immigrants.

    And if the US “exports democracy”, it means they remove from the country.

    What kind of monster looks at a global pandemic and sees only the opportunity to tighten the screws on a neighbor?

    One that said 500,000 dead children was “worth the price”.

    Is there really any difference between what the US does to Cuba and Cheetolini did to Puerto Rico after Hurrican Maria besides being its own territory? When Turkey isolated and targeted the Kurds, we heard crickets; when Saddam isolated and targeted the Kurds, it was a “human rights violation”.

  3. Who Cares says

    What kind of monster looks at a global pandemic and sees only the opportunity to tighten the screws on a neighbor?

    One that states that after spending billions on election interference (they should have taken a lesson from the Russians on that seeing that the Russians only needed a few million dollars to completely flip the US elections according to the same people that happily spend billions to do so in other nations) that their puppet should be in control and not the one backed by the Europeans. Then organizes a coup, so they can install their puppet, where they show up in solidarity with the Nazis (well technically Banderists but those are pure breed original Nazis substituting anyone living east of Germany with anyone living east of the pre-WW2 Polish border as untermenschen instead of the more modern incarnation that are the Neonazis), Neonazis and fascists they used as footsoldiers.

  4. tommynottimmy says

    It just struck me that if the government, or whoever, put microchips in the vaccine, wouldn’t we be chomping at the bit to get our “enemies” vaccinated with our vaccines?

  5. consciousness razor says

    Cuba is a problem (as are Guatemala and Venezuela) its not under control, but it’s weak enough to be incessantly messed with. It’s colonialism without the colony.

    Yeah. In a way, that’s still “control.” Total chaos and non-stop conflict might not just be “okay” but something you can even use to your advantage, when you’re not playing the old-school game of conquering someone else’s turf and planting your flag on it. But you still have lots of control in many of the ways that matter.

    What kind of monster looks at a global pandemic and sees only the opportunity to tighten the screws on a neighbor?

    Well, we’re pretty much talking about microscopic death squads instead of macroscopic ones … not much of a difference really. Of course, you don’t even have to train them or supply them with weapons, which I guess is convenient: it leaves you with more to give to some other authoritarian regime of your choice.

    So, basically the same kind of monster.

  6. jrkrideau says

    @ 1 Pierce R. Butler
    The last info I saw on the Instituto Finlay de Vacunas Cuba: FINLAY-FR-2/ SOBERANA 02 vaccine said it has an n = 44,000 Phase III trial in progress.

    It looks like they are pretty confident it’s a go.

    I have sort-of expected Cuba to declare a “people’s vaccine” and publish all the technical details for general use

    They might well do so but the Phase III is not done. Actually, Cuba is reporting fairly low rates of infection and may like China have a problem in its Phase III trial. One needs a lot of cases to get decent statistical power. Just imagine trying a Phase III study in Australia or New Zealand.

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